Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken. Tender chicken thighs seasoned with a sweet, savory lemongrass marinade accompanied with a tangy Vietnamese dipping sauce.
What is Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken?
It's a popular and classic chicken dish that originates from Vietnam, Southeast Asia. This tender Vietnamese chicken is seasoned in a lemongrass paste marinade made of fresh lemongrass, shallot, garlic, brown sugar (or palm sugar), lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce and black pepper. This Vietnamese lemongrass chicken recipe usually comes with Nuoc cham sauce, which is a sweet tangy flavored dipping sauce. It's very easy to make and only requires 5 ingredients without any cooking time.
At the Vietnamese restaurants, the chicken is typically served with white rice or rice noodles, nuoc cham dipping sauce, fresh lime wedges, cucumbers and tomatoes. In Vietnamese cuisine, lemongrass chicken thighs are also served in noodle bowls, lemongrass chicken rice bowls or in a lemongrass chicken banh mi sandwich.
What to Serve Vietnamese Chicken with?
Vietnamese chicken is one of my favorite dishes and latest recipes in Vietnamese cooking! If you love chicken and lemongrass, this is a must try dish! This fragrant lemongrass chicken pairs well with steamed jasmine rice, rice vermicelli noodles and fresh vegetables or you can have it on top of a salad. This is one of those easy chicken recipes that you will make repeatedly because it's so good and simple! An easy Vietnamese recipe that truly hits the spot with that Asian flavor serving well as a main dish for lunch or dinner.
You’ll need the below ingredients for Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken. Please scroll down to below recipe card for exact measurements.
- Skinless boneless chicken thighs, or substitute with chicken breasts. If you use chicken breasts, please butterfly them so they are the same thickness as chicken thighs. Please also only cook the chicken breast meat to 160 F and let the residual heat carry over the cooking process. Note: chicken breast tends to dry out quickly unlike chicken thighs which contain more fat.
- Neutral oil: like avocado oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, peanut oil, vegetable oil or canola oil. Avoid olive oil, coconut oil or any heavy scented oils.
Lemongrass chicken marinade:
- Lemongrass stalk: use the tender white core ideally. We want to avoid using the green part and only use the white part. The Asian markets will carry this ingredient.
- Shallot: This is a common ingredient used in Southeast Asian cooking as it's found in tropical climates.
- Garlic: for that iconic garlicky flavor that is found in most Vietnamese food.
- Brown sugar: or substitute with palm sugar. You may also use white sugar or honey as a last resort but please note that brown sugar or palm sugar give the chicken a molasses flavor that you can't get in white sugar.
- Lime juice: I prefer lime juice over lemon juice. It adds a wonderful tropical flavor. You may substitute with lemon juice if you can't find limes as a last resort.
- Fish sauce: this is a must for this dish as it's a classic ingredient used in Vietnamese cooking. It's similar to soy sauce but has a deeper umami flavor.
- Regular soy sauce: or substitute with low sodium soy sauce or light soy sauce. If you’re gluten-free, substitute with tamari sauce, coconut aminos or a gluten-free soy sauce of your choice. Avoid using dark soy sauce as it's thicker and darker in color.
- Black pepper
- Limes, sliced into wedges: optional garnish
Note: Most Asian grocery stores will carry these fresh ingredients. You may find some at your select grocery store or online, like on Amazon.
Nước Chấm Dipping Sauce (optional):
- White granulated sugar
- Fish sauce
- Red chili pepper: commonly a red Thai chili is used but it's VERY spicy! So, I recommend using any large red chili pepper unless you can handle the heat.
How to Make Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken
Make Chicken Marinade
Into a blender or food processor, add marinade ingredients. Blend until you have a chunky paste. The lemongrass should be blended pretty well so that you're not eating large chunks of lemongrass.
Transfer skinless boneless chicken thighs to a large bowl or a Ziploc bag. Pour marinade into bowl or bag. Allow chicken to marinate for at least 1 hour, or ideally overnight. This allows the marinade to really soak into the chicken.
Pan Fry Chicken
Heat a non-stick pan or large skillet on medium-high heat (heat level 7 out of 10).
Once pan is hot, add vegetable oil. Important Note before frying: Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to fry chicken in two batches to give each piece enough room or it won't brown as well. I used a 10 inch pan and I cooked in two batches.
Fry chicken in a single layer giving each piece enough room and do not add marinade to the pan. Cook chicken on the first side for 3-4 minutes until golden brown and charred in some areas. Avoid moving the chicken around to get a nice sear and char. Browning the chicken gives the dish more flavor!
Flip Over & Fry Until Cooked
Reduce to medium heat and flip chicken over. Fry on the other side for 2 minutes until browned and juices run clear or an internal temperature of 165 F. Immediately remove cooked chicken from pan. Note: If you fry in two batches, make sure to clean the pan of the burned marinade between batches and add another tablespoon of vegetable oil to fry the next batch.
Optional: If you choose to heat up the reserved marinade, please transfer it to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once it bubbles, serve with chicken.
Make Nuac Cham Sauce
In a small bowl, combine Nuac Cham ingredients as listed together. Serve as a dipping sauce with chicken.
Storage & Reheating
Lemongrass chicken will last up to 4 days stored in an airtight container in the fridge. To reheat, microwave for 2-3 minutes or pan fry on the stove top in a non-stick pan with some oil.
- Try to only use the white part of the lemongrass and avoid the hard green stems. Most of the flavor is in the tender white part of the lemongrass.
- Blend chicken marinade well to finely grind lemongrass into a paste. You don't want to eating large chunks of lemongrass. Alternatively you can use the frozen pre-minced kind.
- Use chicken thighs. These are more tender, juicier and contain a bit more fat giving you the best results. You can also use skin-on chicken thighs if you wish, just marinate them a bit more.
- Poke holes into the thighs with a fork before marinating the chicken. The holes allow for the marinade to really seep into the meat.
- Clean out burned bits in the pan between frying the batches of chicken. The burnt bits will offset the flavor and give the chicken a bitter taste.
- Avoid overcooking the thighs and use a digital cooking thermometer. Cook the chicken until you reach an internal temperature of 165 F. These are fairly inexpensive.
Can I substitute the fish sauce for anything else?
Oyster sauce is a great substitute, but I would add half the portion as it's quite salty.
Can I cook this on a grill pan?
Yes! Cooking time should roughly be the same. I would recommend using a digital cooking thermometer and grill the chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 F. This when chicken is safe to consume.
Do I need to tenderize the chicken thighs?
You may if you'd like but if so, you'll need to reduce the cooking time to 2-3 minutes per side since it's much thinner. To tenderize, use a meat mallet and tenderize until the chicken is about ½ inch thick.
May I use this marinade recipe on other proteins?
Yes, feel free to use it on beef to make a lemongrass beef or pork chops. It's a very versatile marinade, you could even try it with seafood like shrimp, scallops, or any shellfish.
Other recipes you may enjoy!
If you enjoyed this Vietnamese recipe, check out my other Vietnamese dishes:
Easy Simple Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken
- 1.25 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs or substitute with chicken breast* (See Notes 1)
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or any neutral oil and add more if you fry chicken in two batches
- Into a blender or food processor, add Marinade ingredients as listed above. Blend until you have a chunky paste.
- Transfer skinless boneless chicken thighs to a medium bowl or a Ziploc bag. Pour marinade into bowl or bag. Allow chicken to marinate for at least 1 hour, or ideally overnight in the fridge.
- Heat a large non-stick pan on medium-high heat (heat level 7 out of 10). Alternatively, to Air Fry the chicken, see Notes section below.
- Once pan is hot, add vegetable oil. Important: Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to fry chicken in two batches to give each piece enough room or it won't brown as well. I used a 10 inch pan and I cooked in two batches.
- Fry chicken in a single layer giving each piece enough room and do not add marinade to the pan. Cook chicken on the first side for 3-4 minutes until golden brown and charred in some areas. Avoid moving the chicken around to get a nice sear and char.
- Reduce to medium heat and flip chicken over. Fry on the other side for 2 minutes until browned and juices run clear or an internal temperature of 165 F. Immediately remove cooked chicken from pan. Note: If you fry in two batches, make sure to clean the pan of the burned marinade between batches and add another tablespoon of vegetable oil to fry the next batch.
- Optional: If you choose to heat up the reserved marinade, please transfer it to a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once it bubbles, serve with chicken.
Nuac Cham Sauce:
- In a small bowl, combine Nuac Cham ingredients as listed together. Serve as a dipping sauce with chicken.
To Air Fry Chicken:
- Lightly spray air fryer basket with neutral oil or line the basket with an air fryer liner (made of parchment paper).
- Place marinated chicken thighs into single layer. Do not overlap. You may need to air fry in batches depending on the size of your air fryer.
- Air fry chicken at 400 F for 8-10 minutes until you reach an internal temperature of 165 F with an instant read digital thermometer or until juices run clear. No need to flip over.